The population of the Asia-Pacific region is rising at an unprecedented pace. It is estimated that the number of older persons in the region will triple from 419 million in 2010 to more than 1.2 billion by 2050. By this time, one in four people in the region will be over 60 years old. This transition will be more pronounced in East and North-East Asia, where more than one in three people will be older than 60 years by 2050. This demographic transformation is unmatched in scale anywhere else in the world.
Such a rapid increase in the population of older persons has deep social, economic and political implications. Rural-to-urban migration and changing family structures have left many older persons without traditional means of support. A large number of older persons in the region have to no secure source of income due to a lack of social protection. Most countries’ health systems cannot meet the needs of older persons. In addition, there is rising demand for age-friendly and barrier-free environments so that older persons can enjoy continued freedom of movement and can actively participate in society.
The feminization of the ageing population is notable, with women constituting the majority of the older population and an even greater majority of the “oldest old” population (80 years and older). Older women, more so than older men, tend to live alone due to the death of a spouse. Older women are also more vulnerable to poverty and social isolation, and face greater risks of physical and psychological abuse due to discriminatory social attitudes. It is thus critically important to address the gender dimension of population ageing.
Population ageing presents not just challenges, but also opportunities. Older persons play crucial roles in supporting families and communities. Whether through giving such support or through directly engaging in economic activity, older persons also contribute to the economic well-being of society. Home to the largest proportion of the world’s population of older persons, the Asia-Pacific region should lead the way in recognizing the role of older persons and promoting their full participation in the development process.
The Asia-Pacific region needs strengthened policy measures and social and economic adjustments in preparation for the region’s rapid transition to an ageing society.
ESCAP serves as the intergovernmental platform in Asia and the Pacific to strengthen regional cooperation and enhance government capacity to design and implement policies that empower and protect older persons.
ESCAP's programme on ageing focuses on: